View Full Version : [NEWS] Larbre times it right at Monza

04-11-05, 11:11 PM
From Crash.net (http://www.crash.net/uk/en/index.asp):

Larbre times it right at Monza



The 2005 FIA GT Championship got off to a breathtaking start with an opening round at Monza that swung between various potential winners and, perhaps more importantly for the series, various different marques.

Speculation that the Maserati MC12, now in private hands, would dominate proved unfounded, despite its pace in qualifying and, in one of the closest FIA GT races ever, the three leading cars crossed the finish line separated by just 1.456secs after 87 laps of out-and-out war around the 5.793km grand prix circuit.

From pole, it was the Red Bull JMB Maserati that led through to the opening pit-stops, Philipp Peter consolidating the slight advantage that he had earned in the timed sessions. However, the Austrian was not without company, for both the Vitaphone MC12s and the surprising Russian Age Ferrari kept pace with the blue machine early on.

The Larbre Ferrari, Reiter Lamborghini and GLPK/Carsport Corvette were also in touching distance of the lead, although Peter Kox spun away the Murcielago's chances of making a successful return to the series, and the others had the second JMB car mixing it in the hunt for points.

When Peter finally stopped, Michael Bartels' Vitaphone Maserati took over at the front, and appeared the class of the field, save for the moment it was muscled aside by stable-mate Fabio Babini in the second black-and-aqua MC12. The rest of the field gradually whittled itself down to a handful of challengers, with Andrea Bertolini's Maserati losing time having a replacement door fitted following a collision at the Lesmos, the lead JMB car losing time with its second and third drivers at the wheel and the Russian Age entry being forced into retirement.

That left the two Vitaphone cars dicing with the Larbre 550 Maranello of Pedro Lamy and Gabriele Gardel, with the unexpected presence of the Corvette threatening to spring a surprise. Anthony Kumpen was charging in the US musclecar, and was looking good for a podium finish when an oil line failed ten laps from home, momentarily spewing flame from the C5-R's underside and forcing the Dutchman back to the pits.

With the Corvette continuing Carsport's frustrating reliability record from the past few years, an all-Italian battle remained out front, with Maserati attempting to fend off the supposedly old technology Ferrari in the battle for honours. Larbre and Lamy, however, had things under control, having preserved their rubber better than Bartels and Timo Scheider had in the German-entered MC12.

With just a handful of laps remaining, the Portuguese driver swept to the front exiting the Parabolica, but Bartels was not about to let Larbre have it all its own way, and continued to hustle the Ferrari all the way to the flag. In the end, however, Lamy had just enough in hand, fending off the two Vitaphone cars for victory, Larbre's first since returning to the FIA series after an absence of 18 months.

"I knew when we came here that it would be fast and hard and I had to push in every stint," Lamy reported, "We had to be careful with the fuel as well and, when I overtook Bartels, I had to back off a bit to save fuel until the end because we were really on the limit. The strategy, however, was perfect."

Babini and Thomas Biagi kept their Vitaphone team-mates honest to the end, no longer under threat from the two JMB Maseratis, which took fourth and fifth, but at the distance of a lap and three laps, while the top three crossed the line almost as one. Sixth place fell to the second Larbre entry, piloted by Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari and Steve Zacchia, with the best of the GT2 class next up.

The 'junior' class fell, as it had in qualifying, to the impressive Gruppe M Porsche squad, but it was German duo Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller who emerged victorious, reversing positions with team-mates Emmanuel Collard and Tim Sugden.

The entire race was all about the British-entered Gruppe M cars, with the #66 finally winning out over the #88 sister entry after a number of changes of position. Lieb and Rockenfeller finished in an excellent seventh place overall, just 2.086secs ahead of their chasing team-mates.

"All of us are really happy," Rockenfeller explained, having scored his first FIA GT win on debut, "It wasn't easy for us. We had a few problems in the race, especially Marc, who had a hard time, firstly because he was driving on the wrong tyres and, secondly, because the sister car was closing in. It was so close after the last pit-stop."

Third place went to the impressive Ebimotors car, driven by Emanuele Busnelli and Luigi Moccia, a former race winner with Art Engineering.